"For the first time since Duke Energy’s defunct Eden, N.C., coal plant leaked thousands of gallons of coal ash into the Dan River nearly three months ago, the public is getting a look at how the nation’s largest electric utility company may change its containment of coal ash, a substance environmentalists say is one of the biggest threats to rivers and groundwater across the country.
This week Duke Energy’s North Carolina President Paul Newton gave a detailed presentation to state officials at a public meeting, saying that Duke was committed to reassessing how it manages coal ash at its 33 storage ponds in North Carolina. But Newton warned that any changes to its current management practices would come with a lengthy timeline and a hefty price tag of up to $10 billion.
Coal ash, a waste product of coal-fired power plants, is essentially unregulated at the federal level despite containing several compounds that can be harmful to human health if ingested in sufficient quantities. North Carolina has allowed Duke to keep the ash in large, unlined earthen pits, many of which sit next to rivers. Coal ash has leaked into rivers and groundwater several times in the last few years. And environmentalists say even if the ponds don’t leak, they still seep toxic fluids into surrounding land."